Equity and Access – Learning Environments (formal and informal) for those with visible physical disabilities

Hello everyone,

For October, the focus on my presidential theme Striving for Equity Using YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies is on access, and in particular for those with disabilities. As Teen Services Competency Content Area 3, Learning Environments (formal and informal) states, we should “Acknowledge challenges to teen equity and inclusion that occur in the design and management of the overall library program”; “Remove barriers of access to library learning environments” and “Provide space (physical and virtual, in the library and in the community) that is engaging for all teens…”. In order to do this, all areas of the physical building and any locations where library-sponsored activities and programs take place must be fully accessible to all members of the community, including those with physical disabilities. How can we strive for equity if we leave any members of our service area from full participation?

 

In the realm of visible physical disabilities, the just-opened Hunter’s Point branch of the Queens (NY) Library has been recently in the news. Again. And again. Architecturally lauded by the New York Times, New York, and others, a glaring flaw was quickly found in the design of the building. Three large sections of the Fiction collection are inaccessible to library users who cannot ascend a steep staircase. The one elevator in the building does not stop to access this area. Queens Library has since acknowledged the problem, and are working to move that collection to become available to all users of the branch. However, the fact that a $41 million building that was years in the making overlooked such a basic access issue is troubling.

Are there areas of the libraries that you work at which are inaccessible? Do you consider all of your teens when planning programming? Consider both your building and any off-site locations.

Remember, too, that there are free webinars for this and all of the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

Thanks!

Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl

Photo credit: Jake Dobkin, Gothamist

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Teen Literacy Kit Outreach Program

Our goal for the Teen Literacy Kit Outreach program was two-fold.  We wanted to encourage teens from high poverty and homeless families to continue building their reading and writing skills over the summer.  We also wanted to bring our library-based programs to the teens in our area who didn’t have transportation to the library during our regularly scheduled programs.  To accomplish these goals, we contacted our local Dollar General store and asked them to let us block off part of their parking lot and turn it into a Teen Program space once a month during the June/July summer break.  They enthusiastically agreed, and we got to work.  

Step 1:  Create Literacy Kits

Teen literacy kit contents.

Our concern centered on the large number of teens that are enrolled in the local middle and high schools who don’t have a consistent place to call home, much less a space to store books and journals.  My Children’s Librarian and I (Library Manager) wanted to find a way to give those teens portable reading and writing materials, so we came up with the idea of literacy kits: drawstring bags with a book, unlined note book, bookmark, pen, toy, writing prompts and word games, and a Frequent Readers card donated by our local Dairy Queen.  We also decided on an Honor Library so that the teens could take books and not worry about returning them.

Step 2:  Design Teen Programming for a Parking Lot

A tent is set up in a parking lot with library kits on display.

This was the most challenging aspect of the program.  Whatever we planned to do, we would have to bring everything from tables and tents to craft supplies.  We decided to go with science experiments that could be done individually or as a team and didn’t need a lot of supplies to complete.  Each experiment had goals that would allow the teens to earn points towards a prize: a coupon for a free dilly bar at Dairy Queen. We had planned to run the program like one of our library programs with a set beginning and end time, and we advertised it that way, but we found that teens trickled in throughout the program time and could only spend an average of 15 minutes with us.  We modified the book talk to make it a quick introduction to the book and got the kids started on the experiments to keep them with us as long as possible. We passed out literacy kits to any teen who stopped by the tent and even a few that we chased down leaving the store. We only had 17 teens come to the first program and 12 teens come to the second program.

Step 3:  Get Your Local Schools Involved

 

Since the parking lot programs didn’t reach our target of 50 teens, we reached out to the middle school up the road from the Dollar General store.  They provide washers/dryers for homeless families in our area, and they also have a food pantry and used clothing rack. The school let us set up outside and pass out the literacy kits and honor books to teens during their laundry hours in July.  We were able to pass out the remaining 21 kits and 14 of the honor books to the teens that we had hoped to reach. Success!

A librarian is smiling in a tent full of books for teens.

 

Melissa Clark is the Library Manager at Millersville Public Library of Sumner County.

Libraries Welcome All Families: A Conversation with Urban High School Students about Representation in the CT Nutmeg Nominees

This post was first published on the ALSC Blog on April 23, 2019

Jillian Woychowski is the Library Media Specialist at West Haven High School and a member of the ALA Interdivisional Committee for School and Public Library Cooperation

Kymberlee Powe is the Head of Children’s and Teen Library Services at the West Haven Public Library

I am very lucky as a school librarian to work so well with my public librarians. Our city’s children’s and teen services librarian has held card drives and visits me on a regular basis. We’ve coordinated getting materials for each other and worked together on summer reading. We also share the experience of serving on our state book award committee. I served on the High School Level 2018 Nutmeg Committee and Kym just wrapped serving on the Middle Grades Nutmeg Committee for 2020 (see nutmegaward.org). Being on the committee for a state book is a serious time commitment, requiring reading 75-150 books and monthly meetings to discuss them. For both of us, making sure our students were represented in the eventual nominees was very important.

Kym comes to West Haven High School once a week to hold a book club with students in our Program for Accelerated Credit-recovery in Education (PACE) program. Students in PACE “have had difficulty succeeding in the regular setting. The program offers credit recovery and and intensive support system so that these students can learn the appropriate skills and behaviors needed to be successful in school and beyond. The program takes a unique outside-the-box approach to teaching and learning in order to re-engage students in their own education, with a focus on college and career readiness” (Program of Studies, whhs.whschools.org). Students receive 90 minutes each of Language Arts and Mathematics a day, along with contemporary issues and environmental education to give students an awareness of their own community. Technological literacy rounds out their curriculum.

This March, Kym and I sat down for a conversation with two PACE students to talk about being an urban librarian and the challenges for equity, diversity, and inclusion in potential award-winning literature.

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Libraries Welcome all Families: Collaborating on Inclusive Summer Initiatives

This post was written by School and Public Libraries Collaboration Committee members April Witteveen, Natasha Carty, Jill Woychowski, and Robin Gibson.

Public libraries are beginning to look ahead to their summer reading or summer learning programs. Through school and public library collaboration librarians can identify approaches for success using an equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) lens.

In order to reach as many students as possible with information about library summer programs, a great strategy is to collaborate on school visits. Natasha Carty, who’s been a public librarian, school teacher, and now a school librarian, has seen the value of these visits from all angles. As a public youth librarian, Carty’s school visits resulted in a 50% increase in participation. She’s now looking forward to inviting her local public librarians to school to promote their summer reading program, and she will be investigating if there are ways to get students registered for the program while still in school. Carty stresses the importance of summer reading as a way to address the summer slide when working with students and their families at school. She has handed out recommended reading lists from the public library in order to encourage participation in programming. Both school and public libraries have the opportunity to create summer reading lists that represent diverse characters and experiences. This School Library Journal article shows the need for increasingly diverse summer reading lists.

Summer meal sites offer another opportunity for librarians to extend their reach beyond standard library locations through both program promotion and participation. Jillian Woychowski, a high school librarian in West Haven, Connecticut notes that her local public library’s youth librarians “coordinated activities to happen before or after the [meal] delivery times” at school sites. Robin Gibson, Youth Services Manager at Westerville Public Library in Ohio shares that “Youth and outreach staff visit local WARM (Westerville Area Resource Ministry) lunch sites that provide free lunches during the summer months. We visit to promote the summer reading program and to distribute books to kids of all ages. Many of these children don’t come to the library itself, and we are working to add more services (think early literacy and playful literacy building activities) to these summer visits.  We are a school district library with one location, so we need to get out of the building to reach more families. Artificial boundaries (like a main highway) make some neighborhoods feel distant, so we are working to overcome these barriers and build relationships with these often underserved families.”

Carty concurs, saying that she loves “the idea of public librarians going to where the children and students are to read to them, maybe have a quick craft project, and to sign up students for the summer reading program and promote reading.” WebJunction has an archived webinar on “starting or expanding a USDA summer meals site” at your school or library.

Looking for more ideas to bring EDI to your library? On February 28, Amigos Library Services is hosting a full-day online conference: Open Doors: Reaching Underserved Populations. Speakers will discuss a variety of inclusive library practices and programs, sure to provide inspiration and ideas for librarians working on their plans for summer initiatives.

Community Champion Learning Series

This blog post was written by Marijke Visser, Senior Policy Advocate in the ALA Washington Office.

Young woman helping young girl with technology project

Library staff are some of the strongest advocates for teens. The encouragement and support library staff provides helps inspire youth to pursue new opportunities and undiscovered talents. This includes preparing teens for discovering college and career pathways. The ALA Libraries Ready to Code initiative and NCWIT AspireIT are joining forces again in 2019 in a project that will directly increase the meaningful participation of girls and women in computing. We are building on what we’ve learned through our pilot working with local libraries to build capacity for youth programs

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Libraries Welcome All Families: Makerspace Mondays!

The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School and Public Library Cooperation is now focusing its work on equity, diversity, and inclusion projects that include library partnerships. This blog post is the first in this new series.

The YALSA Call to Action Futures Report challenges libraries to “leverage new technologies and become kitchens for ‘mixing resources’ in order to empower teens to build skills, develop understanding, create and share, and overcome adversity.” In Hampstead, MD, a small town in Carroll County, the media center at Shiloh Middle School assumed that “kitchen” motif on Monday afternoons once a month, as Media Specialist, Holly Furhman, and Amanda Krumrine, Library Associate II, Carroll County Public Library (CCPL), partnered to provide a variety of STEM experiences to middle schoolers on Makerspace Mondays.  

Makerspace Mondays was born out of the realization that tweens attending this middle school did not have transportation to the CCPL during the week or on weekends when Maker programs were offered — due to lack of public transportation in the community, dual working parents’ schedules, and the distance of the nearest library branch to many neighborhoods.  The goal was to expose students to a variety of Maker opportunities in a relaxed environment.    

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Libraries Welcome All Families: Community Partnerships to Fund Collection Development for English Learners in Urban Connecticut

One of the most difficult moments of the month was observing my English Learners come to check out books with their classes and not be able to find anything they could read at the high school level. It broke my heart to see dejection on their faces. It did not matter that I myself could not understand the words they were saying; I could just see it. Students perform better academically in literature courses when they see themselves in the materials and simply enjoy independent reading more. While I had some titles of interest for my Latinx students topically, all of them were in English. I set out to add books to my school library collection to assist my Spanish-speaking students. To purchase fiction in Spanish, I first posted a request on Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) for just ten novels. When the project was funded and the books arrived, I labeled each with a green S and shelved them above our fiction cases to aid new students trying to find them. After that success, I added another Donors Choose project to bring ten Spanish memoirs to West Haven High School, as all of our seniors must read a memoir.     

This project garnered the attention of the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network (GBLN), a local organization working to feature Latinx success stories, encourage political activism, and support community endeavors. GBLN showcased the story on their website, and it was subsequently picked up by a local newspaper, the New Haven Register. It was my desire to inform the audience it was not just me, my school, or my district needing these materials and support from the Latinx community:

“Literacy is necessary for being a productive member of society. Volunteering time such as reading at a toddler story hour, helping at a resume writing class, or speaking on a vocation or cause are all ways to support local libraries, especially those serving predominantly Latino communities. Woychowski welcomes the donation of new or gently used books to her own library, but she also encourages readers to donate both books and time to their own local school or public libraries.” (http://gbln.net/books-in-spanish-needed-for-high-school-library/)

Sharing this story via social media has been a blessing in terms of the varied audience reached. Links to the story appeared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and were shared numerous times by personal friends and professional connections. Books began appearing on my home front porch and in my school mailbox from all corners of the community, from a prominent defense attorney to a small Catholic Church to a representative of the Hispanic Nurses Association of a large local hospital. Our community’s support of literacy is invaluable, and as school librarians, we must be willing to advocate for it on behalf of our students.

Jillian Woychowski is a School Library Media Specialist at West Haven High School and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

The Dual Librarian: My Time As a School and Public Librarian

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was becoming a librarian…twice. Once as a school librarian and again as a public library consultant. As an English teacher, I loved sharing great short stories and books with my students. It was one of the best parts of the profession. So when I heard about an alternative certification program to become a school librarian, I jumped at that chance. I realized quickly that I didn’t truly know all of the things school librarians were responsible for and all of the things they did. However, I learned very quickly. While I was working on becoming certified as a school librarian and earning my MLS, my journey began. I had no clue I would one day become…The Dual Librarian!

Being a School Librarian

I am so thankful that I had a support system through my alternative certification (AC) program when I became a school librarian. It was a lot of on-the-job training since during the AC program, you became a full-time school librarian as you learned and became certified. When I first start programming for my middle school students, it was difficult because none of them stayed after school – they were all bus riders. I had to get creative. I realized that our students had plenty of time in the morning after they ate breakfast and sat and socialized in the open “auditorium” area. So I began doing programs before school! During one Teen Read Week, I got the teachers involved and did competitions such as Are You Smarter than a Middle Schooler and Name That Tune. It was great! It gave our students something constructive to do and let students and teachers learn more about each other and see each other in different ways. It also helped them see the library as a fun place and more students started to be active in the library.

In high school where my students did stay after school, I started programming with only academics in mind. However, I quickly realized that I could program events that were not academic at all, like scary movie nights and game nights just to get students in the library. Other events were connected to academia like book trivia, book clubs, and the Straight Talk program which went over topics that students were interested in like college readiness and health. I learned I needed to do anything I could to connect to the culture of the school and do programs that my students really wanted. Right as I was beginning to get my in my groove and feel successful as a school librarian, an opportunity came up to shake up my world.

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Teen Read Week: Community Involvement at Meadowcreek High School

IMG_9908_polarrThis year for Teen Read Week we celebrated and awarded students for “Reading Woke.”  The Read Woke Challenge is a incentive based reading program that rewards students for reading books that:

• Challenge a social norm

• Give voice to the voiceless

• Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised

• Seek to challenge the status quo

• Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group

I started the challenge last year but this year I was able to really expand the program thanks to the Teen Read Week grant sponsored by Dollar General and YALSA.  Last year, many students were not able to receive the prizes they earned but this year I made sure all students who completed the challenge received their prizes.  This year’s program was different because I had more community involvement.  In past years, I have worked alone and not really involved others.  When I opened the doors up to the community, it made my program even better.  I have established relationships and connections that have helped me to make a bigger impact.  Because of the Teen Read Grant, I reached out to the manager of Dollar General.  He was very supportive of the program and he was excited to be a part of our event.

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Teen Read Week at Montville Township Public Library

We at Montville Township Public Library were very grateful to be awarded the Teen Read Week Grant this year and used it to do a four program series relating to Constructed Languages in Science Fiction and Fantasy. First, a book discussion related to this concept, choosing books in which a constructed language is major part of the story, in our case, the invented languages of Christopher Paolini’s Alagaësia, Newspeak from the novel 1984, and the future English of Riddley Walker. Then, virtual guest lectures by Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon, and David J. Peterson, the linguist for HBO’s Games of Thrones. Finally, we ended with a Conlanging Workshop devoted to creating new languages, using the rules of David J. Peterson’s The Art of Language Invention. Throughout, we touched on the theory of linguistic relativity, the idea that the structure of a language actually affects how each speaker thinks and views the world. Further, as attendees were introduced to the workings of myriad languages, they saw that things that seem obvious to English speakers are not necessarily the case.

Over the four programs, attendees learned language and culture are intrinsically tied together, and were able to see its impact on a variety of different worldviews. The possibilities of language are vast, there is no set way to do things. For example, the attendees learned that English uses dummy pronouns, the ‘it’ in “It’s raining,” yet most languages do not work this way, simply opting for their word for ‘raining’ (Afterall, what is the ‘it’ referring to?). Similarly, I showed them an example of a constructed language that didn’t even use verbs. They learned that the word ‘butterfly’ used to be ‘flutterby’ and someone made a mistake hundreds of years ago that stuck. Not only is that an amazing fact, but the realization that most words have stories behind their formation was of great interest to them as well. Lastly, learning all the ways that one’s language affects their worldview and behavior, from speakers of tenseless language being healthier and more financially stable, to speakers of languages that used cardinal directions instead of left and right being able to navigate better, was especially interesting to them.

Personally, I find language fascinating, and I knew many of our teenage patrons thought the same. But what I found in doing these programs is the widespread appeal of the topic of language. People I would’ve never guessed attended some of the programs. Some patrons, for example, who had only ever attended our Super Smash Bros. Tournaments, eagerly attended the Conlanging Workshop. People who had no real interest wound up attending out of curiosity or to accompany a friend, and left amazed and intrigued. To see them speechless as they learned each mind blowing linguistic fact was wonderful.

Language is something so natural to us, so ubiquitous, that we often pay it no mind. But to see behind the curtains, to see the impact it has on us and we on it, is where I think the appeal lies. The newfound interest could lead to them investigating further, to possibly delving into related topics of psychology, philosophy, education, language teaching, sociology, anthropology, computer science, and even artificial intelligence. If a library is looking for an educational opportunity for its teenage patrons, language is an excellent starting point.

Jeff Cupo is the Young Adult/Community Services Librarian at Montville Township Public Library.